“When I strolled along the cracked streets”: excerpts from Young Voices 2014: The Magazine of Teen Writing and Visual Art in Toronto

My backyard december 2014

“When I strolled along the cracked streets”: excerpts from Young Voices 2014: The Magazine of Teen Writing and Visual Art in Toronto
Samin Ali (age 17)
The Poetic Instinct
Sonnets do not simply
appear like leaves on
plants growing from
store-bought seeds
because my pen, it bleeds
when I am injured,
battle-worn and weary.
My pen, it drains
on a page
all my bottled rage
and pain from battle wounds
till the only mementoes of
agony I felt
are the scars I left behind.
For as I compose,
the ink, it flows
from an ocean
of one part suffering
and two parts creativity
that otherwise lies frozen
and dormant
but deep
it puts to shame
the Marianas Trench.
. . .
Natasha Zaman Anita (age 16)
I am a puzzle
With all my pieces
Only to be taken apart
I am a puzzle
Wanting to be accepted
Wanting to be trusted
Wanting to be loved
I am a puzzle
I give you a piece of me
And another
And another
And another
Here – take my corners,
My middles,
And my sides
– Take my everything
In the end
I am nothing more than
A mere puzzle piece
– Completely imcomplete
You throw them away…
You throw away all my pieces,
All of me…
Now I am
Fragmented, foolish, fragile
Don’t worry, though,
You wouldn’t be the first one…
I’ll pick myself up
Bit by bit
Little by little
All the pieces
All the pieces
All the pieces
Of me
And finally
I am whole
– Or at least
For the time being
For I am a puzzle
Only to be taken apart
Once again.
. . .
Aneeqa Tahsin (age 13)
Love Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Nerd
The night was young,
only 13.7 billion years old,
when I strolled along the cracked streets
lined with the wrinkles of an old man,
as the skies shed tears from above.
They called me the Ring Around Saturn,
spinning words as particles of ice and dust…
My whole universe –
the stars, planets, galaxies, nebulas, quasars –
stood still,
like the mere seconds before a hurricane,
or the moment before The Big Bang,
when everything was packed into
an infinitesimally small, massively dense speck.
– Then I met you…
And my whole universe
underwent an enormous increase
in its rate of expansion,
forming a soup of primitive particles…
I met you
on one of the 274.92 starry nights
of the 365.26 days
of nothingness,
when I sat alone
befriended by dusty textbooks
and Darwin’s theories
when I found sense
only in Einstein
and reciting the ‘periodic table’…
The moment I met you
our worlds crashed together,
not resulting in titanic collisions
but twinkling, like stars,
through the layers of the atmosphere.
Like radiation,
you penetrated through my skin,
watched my veins branch like fractals.
I was baffled
by the apparent gravitational anomaly
that drew me to you…
Your eyes were emeralds
rescued from the depths of the Amazon,
but like black holes
as I found myself lost in them,
wary of what lay beneath…
Would I be facing a wall of fire,
or nothing to be stretched into eternity?
I could measure the exact frequency
of your voice
when you spoke my name,
but couldn’t explain what it had to do
with the number of beats my heart produced….
Your smile,
like the curve of the moon;
a laugh with enough energy
to light up the world.
I was like a chrysalis
bound by years of silence,
just a scar on the face of humanity…
My thoughts were in the stars,
unable to turn into constellations…
But you unravelled me,
and I am now a ‘Danaus plexippus’,
a butterfly…
Free, I found you
like I’m Christopher Columbus,
and you – The New World.
Allow me to say:
You were every bit as fascinating
as the view through a microscope!
Each day brought new understanding
of You,
and the knowledge
that there is still far more to discover.
You traced my heart,
drew a map to my soul.
We were planets travelling
in well-determined orbits,
forever in the past – forever in the future.
We spent 274.92 starry nights
searching for Cassiopeia,
and counting stars
the way you counted my freckles
– all 113 of them –
(don’t think I never tried)…
365.26 days of nothing
turned into 365.26 days of something!
It is said: when you stand
at the horizon of a black hole,
one minute there
equals a thousand years on Earth.
And that is precisely how I felt with you.
Together we fit like Pangaea,
but I suppose even Pangaea
broke away once upon a time,
as smiles turned into scowls
that stretched into eternity…
We are planets
knocked out of their orbits
by something other than gravity.
Running after you
was like chasing after clouds,
even cirrocumulus and cirrostratus,
as my breath caught too many times…
Nimbostratus clouds
wept with me
as I spent the remaining
90 starless nights
devoted to storm clouds
and snow,
pondering what happened…
Nary a theory…
Pull up a chair...

Pull up a chair…

Maya Watson (age 18)
The Moon’s Song / La chanson de la Lune
the fat moon swallows
the yellowing day; her belly abloom
with stolen light & she moans & the city’s night bleeds
from her black bassoon (the raccoon’s
hysterical laughter sweetly serenading
the groan of sirens)
marooned cigarettes & their owners shoot
red ashes glowing starly as plump streetlamps ooze
gloom around themselves, sculpting their goddess in navy blue,
& the couples croon
comme est la beauté de la Lune!
the tattoo of lifeblood beaten in 3/4 time on aching chests
comme est la beauté de la Lune!
& sweetly the moon’s night song can be found in closed rooms.
. . .
Aloysius Wong (age 15)
I am
I, along with you, will
pain and sorrow
endure in our stead.
our sacrifices
are forgotten and cast aside.
money, power and fame
outlast the grave.
but kindness, love and truth
won’t matter when we die.
our faults and fears
surely surpassed, no matter how slowly.
yet our courage and our strengths cry out,
as they fade simply away.
our sins
live on in the generations that follow us, who forget
the Will and the Way.
and what more is true:
you and I
never could defeat
(Read “Immortal” now from bottom to top.)
. . .
Special Thanks to Ken Sparling and Toronto Public Library’s “Young Voices” Editorial Board!
. . . . .

Tanya Tagaq: Nunavut’s radical throat-singer

Tanya Tagaq in 2010

.     .     .
Inuk artist and poet Alootook Ipellie (Iqaluit, Baffin Island, 1951-2007) might’ve thrilled to the vocal sounds – both traditional and progressive/highly original –  of contemporary singer Tanya Tagaq (born 1975).  The following poem, which Ipellie wrote in 1974, could’ve been referring to the future Tagaq – just substitute “singer” for “dancer”!


Alootook Ipellie
One of those Wonderful Nights
It was one of those wonderful nights
When we gathered at the dance house.
I recall the familiar sights
When everyone laughed and danced
And had a tremendous time.
The great drums were booming,
Hands were clapping,
And happy faces were rocking back
And forth with the rhythmic dancing
Of the woman who had four legs.
Happy were those days when this
Woman danced all night long without
Resting for a moment.
She gave us so much joy,
So much feeling for life,
That the hazards of the land were
Forgotten —
On one of those wonderful nights
When we gathered at the dance house.
.     .     .









.     .     .     .     .

Kwanzaa poems: Asomfwaa, Sonia Dixon

The seven tenets of Kwanzaa
Brother/Sister/Siblings: Kwanzaa
It was after I looked upon a forest, that I now understand what a family is…
Each tree drops a seed that every tree looks after, until that seed becomes a tree – like its aunts and uncles.
“Brother” and “Sister,” words for “Siblings,” mean:
“As you will look after my child, I will look after yours.” At least in our African tradition.
One of the worst tricks of our adopted culture is that we think that in ancestry
We are Brothers and Sisters,
rather than in concern for descendants
We are Brothers and Sisters.
Thus, I ask whether we have any Brotherhoods or Sisterhoods. What are the two?
Will those who call me Brother look after my child?
Do you, reader, look after the child of others?
If not, will you call another a Sibling?
I am grateful to the ancestors for allowing me the wisdom to
put meaning behind my appellations.
And I promise to my African Blood Siblings, that I will, to my ability,
Be a Brother to you All!
. . .
Sonia Dixon
A poem of Unity: Kwanzaa, Day 1
Here we are on distant shores,
Searching for love ones lost,
Knowing their pain and suffering
Was an ocean of love lost.
Can’t you see the sun is shining
Bringing energies of love?
Come, my people, unite together;
Wake up, stand up, be the love for all!
The bells are ringing – it is time
To answer the call of one.
Get together, my brothers and sisters,
It’s time you must unite as one.
Unite, unite – it’s time, it’s time,
You must unite as one.
Hold together, brothers and sisters,
It’s time to unite as one!
. . .
. . . . .

¡Feliz Navidad para Todos! / A Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Mi arbolito de Navidad_diciembre de 2014_Toronto

Gozo del Invierno: George du Maurier y el Patinaje

Patinaje en Toronto 3George du Maurier (1834-1896)
Rincomania (1875)
Friends of the fleeting skate, behold in this
A Rincomaniac’s dream of earthly bliss,
Sketched by the frantic pen of one who thinks
That Heaven is paved with everlasting rinks
Where Cherubs sweep forever and a day,
Smooth tepid ice that never melts away,
While graceful, gay, good-natured Lovers blend,
To Endless tune, in circles without End.

Patinaje en Toronto 1

Patinaje en Toronto 2

Patinaje en Toronto 4

George du Maurier (1834-1896)
Manía de patinaje (1875)
Amigos del patín fugaz,
contemplen el sueño de extásis terrenal
del “maniático de la pista de hielo”,
bosquejado por la pluma frenética de un hombre que cree
que el Cielo está pavimentado con pistas perpetuas
donde vuelan querubines por siempre jamás,
hielo liso y tibio pero nunca se derretirá,
mientras Amantes graciosos, vistosos y simpáticos combinan
a la Tonada infinita, en círculos sin Fin.

Patinaje en Toronto 5

Patinaje en Toronto 6

Poema de un recuerdo especial navideño / A special “Christmas memory” poem…

Campfire in the snow
Rita Bouvier (1950, Sakitawak, Saskatchewan, Canadá)
A veces me percato llorando – al momento más raro…
A veces me percato llorando – al momento más raro…
Una voz inesperada – mon oncle André / de mi tío Andrés –
llamándome la mañana de Navidad para darme “mejores deseos”.
Y soy, de nuevo, esa pequeña niña
andando por el lago congelado
con su abuelo,
para chequear las trampas ha colocado,
en esta escarcha, bajo una luna explotando sobre las isletas envolventes…
La escarcha está mordiendo,
y él me hace señas para caminar en la sombra de tu cuerpo
Pronto asegura que nos encontraremos en el medio del matorral,
y levantaremos una fogata
para calentar nuestros cuerpos.
. . .
Rita Bouvier (born 1950, Sakitawak, Saskatchewan)
Sometimes I Find Myself Weeping At The Oddest Moment
Sometimes I find myself
at the oddest moment
An unexpected voice
mon oncle André
calling Christmas Day
wishing me
a Merry Christmas
And I am
that little girl
walking across the lake
with her grandfather
to check on the snares
and traps he has set
in this frost
exploding moon
in surrounding islands
The frost is biting
and he motions I walk
in the shade
of his warm body
Soon he claims
we will be
in the thick of brush
and we will make a fire
to warm our bodies.
. . .
From Blueberry Clouds © 1999 Rita Bouvier
. . . . .

Roberto Carlos: Estás tan linda

Madre María y el Bebé Jesús

Madre María y el Bebé Jesús

Roberto Carlos (nacido 1941, cantante y compositor brasileño)
Estás tan linda
Tú viniste sonriendo
No sé bien de donde
Con aire tan puro
De quien del futuro de esperar
La sonrisa encontrar.
Tu vestido sin curvas
Tus sueños guardando
Yo sigo pensando
Que el día que llegue será
Sólo felicidad.
No sé quién eres tú
Ni cual tu origen es
Tan sólo sé que
Luces linda esperando un bebé, esperando un bebé.
Espero que haya sido con mucho amor
Quien sea que fue
Él te vea también que luces linda esperando un bebé.
Tus deseos serán todos satisfechos
Lo importante es que tú sepas esperar
Tu voz ensaya la canción que un día
Muchas veces con ternura cantarás.
Y tú vives pensado que nombre tendrá
El amor que de tu propio amor va nacer
Y ese amor…que en tus brazos tendrás.
No sé quién eres tú
Ni cual tu origen es
Tan sólo sé que
Luces linda esperando un bebé, esperando un bebé.
Espero que haya sido con mucho amor
Quien sea que fue
Él te vea también que luces linda
esperando un bebé…

. . . . .

The Three Kings / Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland

Greeting card_African Three Kings bearing gifts for the Christ child.....The Three Kings,
a Scots Vernacular poem, based on Heinrich Heine’s
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland:
There were three kings cam frae the East;
They spiered in ilka clachan:
“O, which is the wey to Bethlehem,
My bairns, sae bonnily lachin’?”
O neither young nor auld could tell;
They trailed till their feet were weary.
They followed a bonny gowden starn,
That shone in the lift say cheery.
The starn stude ower the ale-hoose byre
Whaur the stable gear was hingin’.
The owsen mooed, the bairnie grat,
The kings begoud their singin’.
. . .
Scots words used – and their Standard English equivalents:
spiered = asked
clachan = village
bairns = children
lachin’ = laughing
starn = star
lift = sky
gear = equipment
owsen = oxen
bairnie = baby
grat = cried
begoud = began
. . .
Heine’s poem in the original German:
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland
Die heil’gen drei Könige aus Morgenland,
Sie frugen in jedem Städtchen:
Wo geht der Weg nach Bethlehem,
Ihr lieben Buben und Mädchen?
Die Jungen und Alten, sie wußten es nicht,
Die Könige zogen weiter;
Sie folgten einem goldenen Stern,
Der leuchtete lieblich und heiter.
Der Stern blieb stehn über Josephs Haus,
Da sind sie hineingegangen;
Das Oechslein brüllte, das Kindlein schrie,
Die heil’gen drei Könige sangen.
. . . . .

Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus

Charlie Brown and Linus_scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas_1965Jefferson Bethke
Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus
What if I told you: Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you: getting you to vote Republican really wasn’t his mission?
Because Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian.
And just because you call some people blind doesn’t automatically give you vision.
If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever been divorced?
Yet God in the Old Testament actually calls religious people whores.
Religion preaches grace, but another thing they practice;
Tends to ridicule God’s people – they did it to John the Baptist.
Cant fix their problems, so they try to mask it,
Not realizing that’s just like spraying perfume on a casket.
Because the problem with religion is that it never gets to the core,
It’s just behaviour modification – like a long list of chores.
Let’s dress up the outside, make things look nice and neat;
It’s funny – that’s what they do to mummies, while the corpse rots underneath.
Now I ain’t judging, I’m just saying be careful of putting on a fake look,
Because there’s a problem if people only know that you’re a Christian
by that little section on your Facebook.
In every other aspect of life you know that logic’s unworthy;
It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey!
But see: I played this game too; no one seemed to be on to me;
I was acting like a church kid while addicted to pornography.
I’d go to church on Sunday, but on Saturday got ‘faded’,
As if I was simply created to have sex and get wasted.
Spent my whole life putting on this façade of neatness,
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness.
If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean,
Cuz it’s not a museum for good people – it’s a hospital for the broken.
I no longer have to hide my failures, I don’t have to hide my sin,
Because my salvation doesn’t depend on me – it depends on Him.
Because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan,
God looked down on me and said: “I want that man!”
Which is so different from religious people, and why Jesus called ’em fools;
Don’t you see he’s so much better than just following some rules?
Now let me clarify: I love the church, I love the Bible, and I believe in sin.
But my question is: if Jesus were here today, would your church let Him in?
Remember, He was called a drunkard and a glutton by “religious men”;
The Son of God does not support self-righteousness – not now, not then.
Now back to the topic…one thing I think is vital to mention:
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums.
One is the work of God, one is a man-made invention;
One is the cure and one is the infection.
Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.
Religion says slave, Jesus says son.
Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.
This is what makes religion and Jesus two different clans;
Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man.
Which is why salvation is freely mine, forgiveness is my own,
Not based on my efforts, but Christ’s obedience alone.
Because He took the crown of thorns, and blood dripped down His face,
He took what we all deserved – that’s why we call it grace.
While being murdered he yelled “father forgive them, they know not what they do”,
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of You!
He paid for all your sin, and then buried it in the tomb,
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross now, saying: come on, there’s room!
So know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it,
Because when Jesus cried “It is finished” – I believe He meant it.
. . .
Spoken-Word performer and poet Jefferson Bethke is from Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A.
He explains:
This poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At its core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is Man-centred, Jesus is God-centred. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus, though, you have humble, confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself, and His sacrifice puts us in perfect standing with God!
. . . . .

Edna St.Vincent Millay: Para Jesús – En Su Cumpleaños / To Jesus, On His Birthday

Salmos 119: 105: Lámpara es a mis pies tu palabra, y lumbrera a mi camino. Pintura por Wayne Forte_A Lamp Unto My Feet copyright 2007 by Wayne Forte

Salmos 119: 105: Lámpara es a mis pies tu palabra, y lumbrera a mi camino. Pintura por Wayne Forte_A Lamp Unto My Feet copyright 2007 by Wayne Forte

Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
To Jesus, On His Birthday
For this your mother sweated in the cold,
For this you bled upon the bitter tree:
A yard of tinsel ribbon bought and sold;
A paper wreath; a day at home for me.
The merry bells ring out, the people kneel;
Up goes the man of God before the crowd;
With voice of honey and with eyes of steel
He drones your humble gospel to the proud.
Nobody listens. Less than the wind that blows
Are all your words to us you died to save.
O Prince of Peace! O Sharon’s dewy Rose!
How mute you lie within your vaulted grave.
The stone the angel rolled away with tears
Is back upon your mouth these thousand years.
. . .
Composed in 1928, Millay’s standard-form Shakespearean sonnet packs a punch with its passionate theme: an anti-materialist Christmas message + a condemnation of the shallow and conformist once-a-year Christian. The conservative structure of the poem throws into high relief Millay’s radical content.
. . .
Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Para Jesús – En Su Cumpleaños
Para ésto sudaba tu Madre en el frío,
Para ésto sangrabas sobre el amargo palo:
Una yarda de listón-oropel – comprado, vendido;
Una guirnalda de papel, y un día en casa para mi.
Las campanillas felices repican, se arrodilla la gente;
El Hombre de Dios se pone de pie ante la multitud;
Y con voz meliflua y con ojos de acero
Zumba Tu humilde Evangelio a los orgullosos.
Nadie eschucha. Menos que el viento que sopla
Son todas Tus Palabras que nos dio con Tu muerte.
¡Oh Principe de Paz! ¡Oh Rosa rociada de Sarón!
Mudo, te echas dentro Tu tumba abovedada.
La peña que apartó el angel lagrimoso
Permanece sobre Tu boca estos mil años.
. . .
Compuesto por Sra. Millay en 1928, este “soneto inglés”de forma regular (catorce versos y una estructura de rima ABAB CDCD EFEF GG en su versión original) expone un tema apasionado casi enojado: el rechazo del Santo Navideño que se trata de regalos y de purpurina chillona + una condena del cristiano-“de vez en cuando”.
. . . . .